Per My Brother:
As the last of the undead departed Riverfront Park for the Nashville Zombie Walk 2012, I took a few final zombie photos before packing up and leaving. But as I was leaving, a group of GMX volunteers arrived, gathering the non-perishible food items to donate toward the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. As I was chit-chatting with the group, I ran across Steven “Zot” Unverzagt, the Vice President and Executive Director for the Geek Media Expo, and also the Event Manager of the Nashville Zombie Walk. Since I’m eagerly anticipating attending GMX, I asked him for an on-the-spot interview, and he graciously accepted.
Can you tell me a little about the process of managing two separate fan-driven events held in Nashville?
– “So, there’s three of us who run the Nashville Zombie Walk, we’re actually part of a larger group: Arts Cubed. It’s a new organization in Nashville. We’re born out of the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention. We also put on the Geek Media Expo, which will be in two weeks down in Cool Springs. I’m the Vice President of that event.”
How did you get involved in the Nashville Zombie Walk?
– “This year we were down at DragonCon, and we ran into Ichabod, the guy who used to run this event. He said, ‘Hey, do you want to run the Zombie Walk?’ We said, ‘Sure, next year will be fine.’ And he said, ‘No. Now.’ So, we got to work. We hit up the Second Harvest Food Bank (and they wanted to participate). And then we started hitting up Facebook. We took over that, and then it’s turned into this organic thing. It’s a wonderful experience. People get to come out, have a good time, socialize with people with common interests, and we really like it.”
Were you involved last year with the Zombie Walk?
– “I’ve been coming to these since the first one… four or five years ago, I think. Me and my girlfriend at the time, we’d just come down, have a good time. When this dropped into my lap, of course I want to do it. This will be great.”
Can you estimate how many people participated this year?
– “It’s really hard to calculate attendance, because it’s a flash-mob, effectively. Just based on crowd size, I’m gonna guess anywhere between 1,500 to 1,800 people. I would say this was a record turn-out. I remember the first time I came down here, it was like 80 people. So, in five years, you go from 80 people to roughly 1,500 to 1,800. That’s pretty impressive.”
Now that the Zombie Walk is finished, what is the current status for GMX?
– “Our event is in two weeks. We had our final volunteer meeting this morning, then we have our final staff meeting in the afternoon. And in five minutes, we’re interviewing applications for the new Gia, who is one of our GMX girls. The girl who is playing that character now, is currently leaving the role… It’s been a busy day. I think today is almost as complicated as actually throwing the actual event. It’s been well planned and I had a big staff that helped pull this off.”
Have you had any thoughts for next year’s Zombie Walk?
– “We’re probably going to call it the ‘GMX Zombie Walk’ next year, but who really knows? I really love the organic nature of this event, and I want to keep it that way. We get a lot of requests from vendors and other charities that want to come out, because, obviously, it’s a pretty rich environment. I don’t know. We’ve got to discuss and figure out the right way to do this, and the proper way to steer this event. I’m sure you saw the crowds. We clearly stopped traffic. We need to bring the city involved with this. We have to throw some structure behind this, but we want to keep it so that it grows organically. Keep it a social event.”
Ever thought about having The Walking Dead sponsor the Zombie Walk?
– “Because of the Geek Media Expo, we have a lot of contact with the folks at The Walking Dead, AMC and Comcast. We had discussions to bring The Walking Dead in, but we decided not this year. We don’t think the time is right for that, but it’s been discussed. I think next year, we’re going to start the Walk on the bridge, and have the zombies horde up on Nashville. There’s less traffic, there’s an easier gathering spot over there. It would make for some great pictures. That may be the direction we’re going.”
What is the expected attendance of GMX this year?
– “Last year we were at 1,250, something like that. For 2012, we have record pre-registration attendance. It’s mind-blowing how we’re growing. My registration person says 2,500. That’s almost 50 percent growth, which is massive for us. For total attendance, I’m going to be conservative and shoot for 2,000. 2,500 would be a pipe dream that I’d love to have. The more the better.
Will there be anything related to zombies at Geek Media Expo Volume 4?
– “For as many of your readers that can come out, we’re gonna have the folks from Malice in Mind come out. They’re an effects shop here in town. They do a lot of zombie makeup and they’re going to come out and do a zombie thing. We talked about a few different plans, so I don’t want to say anything. Something about prosthetics; something about some junk cars for taking pictures. As GMX grows, we’re going to do more and more horror-related events. Anything that the word ‘geek’ can touch, we can grow dynamically… and across all verticals of geekdom. We can grow infinitely. We’re not rat-holed into comic books.”
Have you made any plans for future GMX conventions?
– We’ve already got a date lined up for Volume 5 next year and there will be an announcement at this year’s Closing Ceremonies. That will also be lined up at the Cool Springs location. Volume 6, we’re looking at coming back home to Nashville. We always say it’s the closest weekend to Halloween.”
This year, GMX occurs during the same weekend as the Zombie Buffet 5k. Have you ever considered partnering up the convention with the race?
– “Absolutely we want to partner with those guys. If they want to work with us on anything, we’re happy to help. Because we’re on the same weekend, and being downtown… in a couple of years, I think there’s no reason why we couldn’t work together. And I’d be very open to that kind of discussion.”
For More Information:
Contact “Zot” on Twitter – @GMXZot
GMX Volume 4 – http://geekmediaexpo.com/
Nashville Zombie Walk – http://www.facebook.com/nashvillezombiewalk?sk=wall